Each year in this country, fires set by children are responsible for more than 100 fire deaths, nearly 1,000 painful burn injuries, and hundreds of millions of dollars in property loss, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Children are often the victims in these fires. While curiosity about fire is natural, fires set by children are dangerous and deadly.
Why Do Kids Set Fires?
For most young kids, the motives to set fires are experimentation and curiosity.
The best way to understand why children set fires is to look at their motivations for firesetting. For most young kids, the motive is experimentation and curiosity. Motives can involve curiosity, a cry for help, thrill-seeking, willful intent to cause destruction, or by children who suffer from mental or emotional problems.
Remember, if you suspect your child is setting fires, you are not the only parent ever to face this problem. Contact your local fire department immediately. Explain the situation to them. Many fire departments offer youth firesetting prevention and intervention programs. The Suffolk County Juvenile Firesetter Invention program is designed to help Suffolk families with Youth Firesetting. Click here to learn more and to get help.
Parents, caregivers, and public educators, whether they are from the fire department or the school system, can build an informed foundation by teaching fire safety at an early age. Teach children of all ages that fires, even small ones, can spread quickly.
Teaching Children Fire Safety
The most critical message for children to learn is that matches and lighters are tools, not toys! Parents should never use lighters, matches, and fire for fun; children will mimic you, and when they do it unsupervised, tragic events can result. Praise your child for practicing responsible behavior and showing respect for fire. Set a good example: use matches, lighters, and fire carefully, as children will imitate positive behavior too.
- Always supervise young children.
- Never leave matches or lighters within reach of children. Keep matches and lighters out of reach in high, locked cabinets.
- Use child-resistant lighters, but remember that they are not child proof.
- Instruct young children to inform an adult if they find matches or lighters.
Home Fire Safety Tips
- Regularly inspect your home for fire hazards.
- Install and maintain working smoke alarms throughout your home.
- Plan and practice home fire-escape drills that include two ways out from every room.
- Install residential fire sprinklers in your home.
The Orange County Fire Authority produced a public service announcement showcasing the consequences and legal ramifications of juveniles playing with fire. Some of this pertains to California but the strong message is worthwhile here.
Youth firesetting is often referred to as the preventable arson.